Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Thanksgiving Table

originally posted on fourwardwrcc.org


1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sweet baby Jesus, but Thanksgiving is it for me. There are no gifts to buy or open, no fancy dresses with matching shoes and little girls pulling up their tights with each step into the sanctuary. No elf with elaborate set designs. Just time with family and invited extras. There are always extras. Thanksgiving is never about the place settings or the trendiest recipe. It’s not even about my corn casserole or my momma’s stuffing and they are so stinking good it could be. It’s always been about the people around it.
One Thanksgiving my mom made us, or should I say, gave us the opportunity, to go around the table and say what we were thankful for and a family tradition was born. Some years, it was shared around the table after our meal, often through tears. Some years it’s been penned directly on the tablecloths. “I am thankful for light sabers and basketballs,” from one of the cousins. “I am thankful Dad beat cancer,” after a year filled with fight. “I am thankful for my trip to Africa,” spoken after the fruit of a lifelong calling to go. “I am thankful this year, I’m a mother,” from a sister after a decade of infertility. “I am thankful I have a family,” when the loss of one is still fresh in your veins. There have been countless celebrations announced and victories won spoken around that table of thanks. Some years it’s been written on leaves of construction paper and hung on small branches from the yard serving as a centerpiece. This year, in true Pinterest fashion, we will write them on a pumpkin.
There has been really difficult, grasping for air as you come to the surface kind of years. There have been year’s of fighting cancer and grieving lost pregnancies and dumb choices. There have been times when the struggling marriage sat around that table, the father in law losing his words to dementia, the friend fighting addiction, the new member at church that feels isolated. Seated at the table has been a wife beaten by her husband and an exchange student thousands of miles away from home. The mother that gave my youngest children life sat there with us the last time she chose to see her children…needing to witness the love firsthand before she gave herself permission to let go. Each year we are one family. A broken bunch of crazies striving to love one another well. Each year there is something to be thankful for, appreciative of; even in the pain. There is redemption around the table. Each year there is a harvest. Around that table sits forgiveness, reconciliation, perseverance and strength. Patience and faithfulness are seated there. Love sits there. Big, messy, we are in this together kind of love.
There has never been a year I’ve not had something to be thankful for. There has never been a year that anyone else has had to exclaim, ‘nothing to say, no blessings this year.’ Each year. Each year there are blessings. Each day. In abundance. There is always appreciation and gratitude and the time to reflect on those moments, those gifts, brings joy to the faces seated around me. Where there is appreciation and thanks, there is praise.
At that same table, throughout our lives, we were taught thankfulness. It’s how this day looks so beautiful now. Messy beautiful. Thankfulness was an intentional way of living, an intentional attempt at grace and joy and praise. In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp talks about the eucharisteo“And he took bread, he gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them … ” (Luke 22:19 NIV). In the original wording, ‘’he gave thanks’’ was translated from the word eucharisteo, meaning grace and joy…the gift of grace and joy at the table of thanksgiving.
There has been some tough stuff in my family this year. Sitting at the table might even be hard. Maybe you’re in the same situation. Our circumstances may change but thankfully, our God does not. He is the same. We will give thanks because of who HE is, not how we feel. We give thanks, because even if not, HE is still good. He is ever present. He is always with us. He is the gift of grace and joy. He gave us that example when He carried the cross through town and in the midst of unconscionable pain, praised God anyway. That is thankfulness. And after that thanksgiving, the miracle came 3 days later. It is our gift back to Him to remember. Out of our love for Him, we remember. Because of His love for us, we give thanks.
Voskamp writes, “The Eucharist is the central symbol of Christianity. One of Christ’s very last directives He offers to His disciples is to take the bread, the wine, and to remember. Do this in remembrance of Me. Remember and give thanks. This is the crux of Christianity: to remember and give thanks, eucharisteo. Eucahristeo always precedes the miracle.”
And for that, I am thankful.
May your Thanksgiving table offer grace, joy and praise.
~Jen Harris

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

God's got this

Originally posted at fourwardwrcc.org


When I was in college I watched a young man I love self-destruct. He didn’t apply himself in school. He grew his hair out and colored it green. He rejected mainstream anything, including Jesus. He questioned authority and became defiant. He got involved with drugs and headlined a punk rock band. He had a whatever-makes-me –happy-even-at-the-expense-of-others attitude and pushed his family away. As a teenager I remember wondering why his mom and dad put up with him. I was critical of their parenting. As a parent now, I can’t imagine how difficult this time was for them.
handExasperated, I would argue with him and write him letters to try to prove the case for Christ. I watched as his dad tried earnestly to connect with him in some way. While others looked on in disbelief, his dad would attend his punk rock gigs like you might a child’s spelling bee. His mom saw past his outward rebellion to his kind heart, while friends and family shook their head, amazed at their apparent lack of furor over his choices. They never dismissed his feelings. They lovingly redirected him to Jesus at every opportunity. They loved him; kept on forgiving him. Seventy times seven. Although they made it clear they didn’t agree with some of his choices, he always knew they loved him. As an agnostic, as a Buddhist, they loved him. As a broke 19 year old following the musical group Phish, they loved him. Through his twenty-something-moving-to-California-to-find-himself they loved him. As a successful entrepreneur in his 30’s they loved him. When he was lost and broken, they loved him. They walked with him, even when he didn’t want them too. They offered mercy and grace even when it was hard and they didn’t feel like it. They loved when they didn’t understand or agree with any of it.
James 4:11-12
Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?
That boy’s parents recognized what I didn’t; we all need a Savior. Each of us. When you lose site of your need for a Savior, it’s easy to point out the sin of others. I’m not talking about losing site of God’s goodness or His love. That’s comfortable to think about. I’m talking about recognizing your own stink. Your muck, failings, flaws, your sin. Your bad attitude. Your gossip. Your infidelity. Your coveting the vacation your neighbor has or the new car parked in their drive. Your little white lie. That movie you watched and the feelings you had. Those words that came spilling out of your mouth in anger and frustration. That hate & bitterness you harbor in your heart because that one time that one person did that one thing. That night you set out to drink your issues away. Your sin. We all need a Savior. We, in all of our humanity, did nothing to deserve God’s grace, mercy and acceptance. But he gave it anyway.
Despite ourselves, despite our sin, He loves us. Took the nails for us. Hung on a cross for us. The road to the cross was paved with our sins. Yours and mine. And theirs. Our need for a Savior is universal. His blood covers everyone.
We should absolutely be able to have hard conversations with one another and keep each other accountable but that can only take place in relationship. Living amongst one another.Criticism and accountability in the absence of relationship breeds contempt. brickwallIt creates an environment for the heart to build a wall to protect itself and with each interaction another brick is added. God meets us right where we are. We need to love others in that same place. Let’s not add any bricks to the walls. Let’s create an environment where the bricks come tumbling down so the Holy Spirit can move.
That boy’s folks realized something else, God did not send us to save. That’s Jesus’ job. Jesus chose to live among the sinners. He could have stayed in heaven and pointed out the errors of our ways. He could have separated himself from us. He could have forced us to believe in Him. Instead, he chose relationship with us. In the midst of our muck. He didn’t force himself upon us, he offered. He showed us a new way of living, of loving. He accepted us and watched His holy spirit change our hearts. As we learn more about Him, as our hearts grow closer to His, our life begins to bear fruit. Our life begins to reflect His.
That is the example He gave us. It’s that example my parent’s gave me. That boy is a man now. A man seeking after God’s plan for his life. It was our parent’s example, that Jesus kind of love, that brought my brother home. It was that place of safety and acceptance that allowed my brother to find his way to Jesus. It wasn’t any argument I had with him. It wasn’t my letters pointing out all he was doing wrong. It wasn’t my cries of frustration with him. It wasn’t the heads shaking or finger pointing. It was the love of Jesus given through my parents and countless sleepless nights in prayer. It was the Holy Spirit. God alone. He alone is the judge. He alone is the Savior. Our instructions are to love. Big, vulnerable, in the muck love. That is where we plant the seeds. God is responsible for the fruit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Let us leave a legacy

Originally posted at fourwardwrcc.org  Let us leave a legacy.


Last week a little boy washed up on a beach in Turkey. A little boy with a red t-shirt and teeny tiny sneakers. A little boy witSalton-Sea-wikispacesh a family, friends; a little boy with a name. Aylan. Sweet Aylan, child of God. While I wish it was an image I never had to see, I looked at the picture of this precious child and thought of all the plans God must have had for him, what he liked to do, what made him laugh before the brokenness of our world drown him in the sea.
I have to believe we are better than this. I have to believe there is something we can do so no other child ever dies in such desperation. So no other child is born into war, poverty, hate. Four other children drowned that day in the Mediterranean. At the end of 2014 there were almost 20 million refugees and half of those were children. That number has only grown. How many more Aylans have their been? How many more does there have to be before we stop turning our heads because it’s just too hard to see. This is real life. This is happening now in our world. In our time.
Child abuse, neglect, pornography, babies organs harvested for money. Isis. Refugees and immigrants risking their lives and the lives of their children for a chance at the resources we greedily cling to. Children gunning one another down in our streets. It’s almost too much to bear. We are better than this.
When our bodies are lying in the ground, what will our community remember about us? What kind of emotions will it evoke from those that knew us? Will we have made an impact? Will our neighbor, our family, our community, the next generation be better because we lived?
Will they remember our judgment? Our condemnation? Our US versus THEM way of thinking? Will they remember that inimages our passion for Jesus we forgot that we are not the ones that were sent to save? Only He can. Will they wonder why our response to the unborn was swift and vehement while some of us did little for the orphan and the hungry, the homeless and the sick? Will they question why we lifted our voices the loudest toward gay marriage and worried so little about the dysfunction in our own?
There are businesses directed solely at planning your will, your estate, your riches. Our society focuses on the influence of the famous and the fortunate. What about our legacy? I want to leave a legacy. Don’t you?
Let’s leave a contribution that can’t be measured or held in our hands. Let’s leave a legacy of love. Of empowerment. Of peace. Let’s influence those around us in the way we live our lives. Let’s point to Jesus in how we love and let the Holy Spirit handle the saving. Let’s invite others with open arms and be thankful we don’t own the burden of judgment. Let’s shine His light. Let’s quit putting all of our efforts in to the things of this world and pour out our gifts and talents in to the lives of those around us. Let’s invest in the lives of our co-workers. Let’s reach out to those that are different than us. Let’s embrace the otherness of one another and see it for what it is, God designed beauty.
images-1Let’s leave a legacy so when we are gone our children remember that we didn’t turn our face from the toddler that washed up along the shore…that it brought us to our knees as the tears fell. Let them know we felt it in the pit of our stomach. Let them feel it too. Let them remember that we fought and kicked and screamed through the brokenness and the heaviness and the muck…that we walked right in the middle of it with others. Let them know that we loved large. We shared Jesus. We gave to the point of sacrifice. And although we couldn’t change the world, we tried to change the world for one. And then the next one and then the next and we lived our lives in a way that others might want to do the same. Anyone can leave a trust fund. Let us leave a legacy.  
Audio Player
Legacy, Nichole Nordeman
Acts 9:36-43 The Story of Dorcas

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Star Light, Star Bright

Guest post over at the blog for White River Christian Church. You can find it here.


Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight….
In the wee hours of the morning I wrapped myself in a comforter and lay on our deck to watch the meteor shower.  The typical nearly empty sky was filled with as many stars I’ve seen since Africa. I was at once reminded how small I am and how big our God is…That in the vastness of all of this, He loves me. He loves me so much that he knows the count of the hairs on my head. Each one of those stars in the sky, He can account for. I hope and I pray that the love I feel from that would be a love that each of us would know. A love that every life deserves.  A love, that if every life would be connected too, would change our world.  I’m blown away by His goodness and grace, by His perfect design.
Most evenings the haze of the lights from being ‘in town’ block out what few stars there are. But not this night. I could not count them if I tried. It’s just like God to hint out how full He makes life. He can take the emptiest of days and make them full; just like this night sky. He can turn the most horrific of experiences in to a victory. I believe he can take the battered and the bruised and turn them in to warriors for others. I believe he can take the gruesome and bring Glory. I believe He can connect every life to Him. Every experience. He can bring beauty through ashes.
So many people search this world for fulfillment. They search for it in relationships. They look to another to complete them. Some turn to pornography to fill a deep need and others alcohol or drugs. We try to backpack across Europe to find ourselves. We may search for gratification in the work we do…even in service to others. We fill our lives with distractions and busyness because of the discomfort of being with our true selves. To sit alone with our feelings reminds us of how distant we allow ourselves to get from our Savior. We long for contentment and  peace; so we search for it. But there is only one source. Connection to Christ.
I walked out on this deck a broken wreck of a mess. I am completely undeserving of His love for me; of the sacrifice He made. But He offers it freely to each of us. To every life. He loves the beggar and the giver the same. The black and the white. The conservative and liberal. He loves the righteous and the sinner. The Sauls before they are Pauls. The 12 Disciples were a conglomerate of weakness and sin, but He chose them, used them and loved them. It isn’t about who they are but who Jesus is.  Then and now.  Jesus wants us to be connected to Him. And it doesn’t matter who you are or who you aren’t, He loves you too. He loves those that offend you and disagree with you and those that you don’t like just as much as He loves you and me. Every life. He died for every life. He longs to know each of us. And He can use all of us.
The Cross connects every life to Christ. As soon as we can grasp how much God loves us. As soon as we can grasp how undeserving we are of it. As soon as we can grasp that He loves each of us that big…as soon as we can do that, the world will change. Because when we feel this love, we offer His love. When we realize we are as much in need of a Savior as the person next to us, the judgments melt away. When we accept His grace, we can offer grace. We can connect every life to Christ.
I watched over 30 shooting stars and 1 tricky airplane before sleep started to call again. I lay there thinking how can I stay this connected to Him. How can I help others feel this connected to Him? Lord, let my life reflect you to others. Let my love give others a taste of yours. Let my life and my work and my service glorify you…so that my connection with others would connect them to my great God so that they would know Your great love. That in the vastness of the stars…the world…the universe…that in the vastness and greatness and bigness of all of that, you know them by name. For that, I praise you.
Sometimes our quiet time doesn’t look like the Instagram picture of the coffee mug and our Bible. Sometimes it is lying on our deck in an act of worship to God. It could be in the car on your commute to work. Maybe it’s in the shower, sitting in peace or praying aloud. Maybe it’s silent tears when the words don’t come. Maybe it’s playing Barbies when you would rather be doing anything else or cooking dinner when you are too tired to stand. It all connects to Him. Connect your life so that it is all worship to God. Allow Him to be such a part of your life that the quiet time and the prayer time isn’t necessarily a time set aside in the morning or the night but it becomes your life. Allow Him to fill your life like He did the night sky. That all you do, you do in love, in His name.
…I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Mercy Is Messy

I've been quiet over here because I've been lending my voice to the blog for White River Christian Church. I thought I'd share them here from time to time.

Mercy is messy


When I look back on my life as a Christian, echoes of mercy bounce off the pages of the journey. From the age of 15 to almost 20 I lost my ever-loving mind. I like to blame it on the frontal lobe and point to study after study that shows this biological force for making good choices isn’t fully developed until our late 20’s.  My parents never bought that either.  For years I blamed them for moving me to a new school when I was 15. The truth is, I loved Jesus but was more concerned with what I wanted in life than what He wanted for me or who He called me to be. Through all of that, and still now, mercy brought me to the cross.
Recently there was all of this news about kids getting in trouble at a school function for underage drinking. People in the community pointed fingers and called for punishment. Some shook their heads and asked for understanding. Somewhere in between neon leg warmers and the Twitter/social media craze, I was a teenager. Life as a teenager is hard. It was hard then and it seems even harder now. There will more than likely be moments when you want to look at the teenager in your life and flick them in their forehead while a question mark appears in one of those cartoon bubbles above your head. At the beginning of my senior year in high school a friend and I were arrested for underage drinking. I was the President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Not joking. I got kicked off the homecoming court and had to sit out several tennis matches. I was dumb. I made a really stupid choice and took a few sips out of a good ole red solo cup at my first college party. My parents were embarrassed and angry. My coaches and principal were disappointed. I let my friend’s parents down that trusted my friendship with their daughter.
If that wasn’t enough, I also dated a guy in high school that was a fixer upper. Lord bless my momma and daddy for all the projects I brought through the door. This particular one, he was the stuff of parental nightmares. My mom found a letter one day that I know now as a parent would have brought intense sadness. You don’t raise your daughters to allow people to treat them that way. Yes, ma’am you taught me better.
More than any punishment or scolding or finger pointing because of my choices throughout those years, the one thing I was offered that changed me was mercy.
I remember my Principal coming to my home several times to tell me and my parents that he knew I was a good kid and  I wasn’t my mistake. My parents gave me consequences but they also helped me move past it and gave me opportunities to gain their trust back. My friend’s parents continued to love me and I spent as much time in their home in high school as I did my own. I truly believe the way my parents handled that letter they found saved me from becoming the lead in one of those afterschool hallmark specials. I won’t ever forget my momma telling me she forgave me and Jesus forgave me and it was time for me to forgive myself. Mercy.
I don’t share all of this so you have fuel with which to roast me someday. I share this because I came to care very much about God’s will for my life.  I believe, in large part due to the mercy shown to me by others because they understood fully the mercy given to them in Christ. I share this because there isn’t a single one of us without sin. I could just as easily share mistakes I made just this week. My mistakes, my sin, re why Jesus came. I need a Savior. I need His mercy. We all do. I am thankful that God chose not to stand upon His throne with crown in hand and exclude me from His love. I am thankful He chose mercy and joined me in the mess of my life. I am thankful for believers that chose to love me through my mess. Mercy is messy. Loving others well is messy. We are called to the mess.
You can judge the kid and their parents for making bad choices or the Olympic athlete transitioning from male to female. You can talk about the next door neighbor whose marriage is struggling or the guy at the work functions that drinks too much. You can point your finger and shout your rules and stand on the claims of your values or you can show mercy. You can show love. You can share Jesus. That changes lives.  It changed my life. Judgments, ridicule, shame, don’t belong in the Gospel.
Jesus never stood on a mountaintop pointing down at sinners condemning them. He saidcome to me and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
And God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,  because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:10-13
Jesus came for me. Jesus said he loves me and you,  the transgender Olympian, the teen making poor choices, the gossip, the housewife coveting her neighbor’s life, the man drinking too much to escape life’s responsibilities…I love you all…even the one sitting back judging all the others.  I paid the price. Mercy wins.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cool Runnings: An open letter to my children

My dear children, we are about to take off to Jamaica. This has been my dream for our family since I can remember. The reason we are going brings me much sadness but I know it is a trip that will also be quite special for us. I always wanted to go to visit Grandpa but something tells me this might have been a dream of his too and he's making sure we will all get there now. I trust God's timing in it. Do not worry about missing school and all of the make-up work you will have. This is an education those four walls or a book could never give you. For so many Jamaica is a tropical vacation destination, a fun place for Spring Break. For us, it is so much more. I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you before we depart.

You will see some very extravagant places while we are there....beachside wonderful vacation homes and resorts with all the food you could ever want to eat and 5 pools and water sports and all the fun and fancy. People from all over the world come to admire the beautiful resources Jamaica has to
offer.I know you'll notice the beauty of the island: lush green rain forest, clear turquoise waters, rushing waterfalls, white sand under your toes, bamboo forests that look like they reach the heavens. While you notice those things, remember Who created them. Thank Him for it.

You will also witness a poverty that most of you have never seen. We talk about it in our home. You know it is there. Seeing it with your own young eyes is different. You might feel like you want to cry. Mom did. That's okay. It hurts our hearts when we see people struggling. It should hurt our hearts. That's Jesus whispering to you...that's Jesus nudging you that with your own set of gifts and talents you have the ability to make a difference in this world. In fact, He calls us to.  That's Jesus
telling you, yes you, through Me, are my answer to the people in the world that are hurting. So you take a deep breath and you gather up all that love in your heart you hold for Him and that He has for us and you pour it out on those around you. It is okay to question why we have so much and others so little. I wish I had the answers to that. You will probably have many questions while there that Mom doesn't have the answer to. The contrast between those that have and those that don't is very easy to see here and it will be hard on your hearts.

You will notice the difference in the development and infrastructure of the country.You won't have a name for it but you'll notice. You might complain because of your lack of wifi access or the no hot water at Daddy's house. The electricity might even go out for a short time and we'll survive. The van might hit a hundred potholes in the road and sometimes their won't even be a road so we'll park and walk up the path to your great aunties house.You will think her rain tank is cool and be amazed that is how she gets her water to her home. You will love the cane field that daddy will lead us too. He will cut a piece clean off and the taste of the juice from it will be a memory that never leaves you.

When we visit the school named after Grandma B you will see disparity in the way your school building looks and the school they are in. You will observe that there aren't 3 or 4 choices for lunch but each child will be given rice and maybe some carrots. You won't see IPads. Might not see a computer. But do not be fooled, you will see educators and students all the same. You will see children who value education and know it can make all the difference.

I already know you are in love with the food. When Daddy and Aunt Ju take over the kitchen your mouths start watering and it's as if the flavors of the island were more nature versus nurture. The smells, the colors, the intense flavors are one of the things I think Daddy misses most.  We will get our fill of patties and bullah and Ting and you can eat jerk chicken til your eyes water.  Some of the best food in the world is from Jamaica.

You will hear the music everywhere you go.  Constant music, as if it were to stop, the people would too. The entire country seems to move in rhythm.  It is full of life and rich in history. From the moment each of you first heard reggae and the steel drum we've seen the innate love for it that was birthed deep within. It is your culture.  Soak it in.

The thing I am most excited for you to experience is the people, oh the people.  Whether it is the lady at church on Sunday with her hair neatly tucked under her best hat and color coordinated from her earrings to her shoes or the Rasta that lives in the hills by aunties house that carries his machete to cut away the brush as he walks, or the young man that serves you the best patty you've ever had in your life, they will be friendly. You will notice the joy of life they have and you will feel a sense of energy there that you have probably never seen here in the states. It's hard to describe but you will feel it and you will want to experience that again and again. You will notice the beautiful sea of all shades of brown faces. You will notice how proud Jamaicans are to be Jamaican. You will fall in love while we are there. You will fall in love with the island and the culture and your family.

I know you'll notice the melody of your daddy's national dialect. You will hear so much Patois your head will spin and every conversation will seem to be on fast forward for the first few days and then it will start to become clearer.  By the end of the week you will give it a shot yourself and I want you to know that language is a part of you.  It originated from the English control over Jamaica and the slaves coming to the island from West Africa. It is a blend of those languages born out of ingenuity and circumstance and smart, brave, young black men and women that learned how to make it in a world they were thrown in to. Be proud of it. Speak it loudly. Let the sounds of it fill your spirit and lift your shoulders high.

I hope this trip gives you an insight in to your Daddy you haven't had the privilege of knowing until now. I pray you see just how hard he has worked. I pray your young eyes see the concrete walls and the dirt yard, the broken bottles that serve as a security gate around the house and the bars on the windows. I pray you see your Daddy for the man he is and know that he is that man because of all of that. His integrity and character are the best you will find. He works tirelessly for our family. His parents gave selflessly for him to have more opportunity. That is what he does for you. God put people in Daddy's life to encourage him and offer opportunity. God created Daddy to be who he is and I am thankful your daddy allowed Him to work in his life. The best way you can honor Grandpa and Daddy is to become who God made you to be.

I know you will see so many come to honor Grandpa this weekend. You will hear stories about his life and love. You will see the fruits of his work and meet people that know Jesus because Grandpa showed them who He was. You will experience first hand the legacy that has been laid out for you. It is my prayer that this brings you comfort as your grieve and that it inspires you. It is my prayer that you take in every single second and that you tuck each memory neatly away to be able to bring it to mind when you need it most in this world. I am so very thankful to see this life through your eyes and watch as you learn more about yourself and your dad and Grandpa.

I know you'll remember the sights and the sounds.  I know you will remember the aunties and the uncles and the new cousins and their love for you and you them. I know you will remember Daddy's home. Look deeper. Listen closer. This is you. Claim it as your own. This is a part of you no one can ever take away. This is your culture, your rich amazing heritage. This is your grandpa's legacy. Your daddy's legacy and it will be yours. Embrace every last drop of it. Take pictures in your mind and stay in the moment. Read the lines of the faces of your great aunties and uncles that tell of the hard work and soak in the sound of the laughter that have carried this family through life and it will fill your soul and carry you in yours. Wipe the tears of the pain around you at Grandpa's funeral and know the tears come because love came first. Big, crazy, God filled love. Appreciate who you are and to Whom you belong. To whom much is given, much is expected.

Enjoy Jamaica, my sweet babies. Cool runnings....Peace be the journey.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fruits of the Spirit....

We knew this day would come.  You can not prepare your heart for it.  Trevor's dad, one of the greatest servants of God I've ever known, met Jesus face to face today.  I am heartbroken for my husband, my children, Joy, and all who loved him.  He was one of God's greatest works.

When I first met my father in law the thing that stood out to me were his eyes.  They danced. I had only seen eyes like that a few other times and I came to realize it was for the same reason....the joy of Jesus.  His eyes had an eternal light in them.  He shined God's love on everyone. He hugged me tight and long, laughing, and rocked me from side to side like he would countless times throughout the years. He was so joyful. He would often belly laugh with his 'big son' and his Joy girl.  So joyful.

He would ask me and my family about our lives and listen with intentness and a total presence.  He was not distracted by any outside otherness and gave you his full listening self.  I watched him treat everyone that way.  He was so very kind. You were the most important person in the room to him. Always kind.

He served the people of Haiti for years as a Missionary and spent a lifetime serving the people of Jamaica.  On my first, and so far only visit to Jamaica, we turned on to a rough looking street and Trevor declared it his.  Pot holes the size of our little Toyota were the norm.  The houses either had sharp glass or barbed wire at the top of the gates surrounding their home for protection.  A goat and a rooster wondered down the side of the road. The sounds of loud reggae music came from one home and a Rasta man sat on the porch of another with a ring of smoke around his head.  A group of young men were walking down the middle of the road and looked like they were up to no good.  As I am praying that we hurry past, Trevor's dad slows his car to a stop and the young men come over and shout "hello Pastor" and give high fives and hand shakes and "nuff respec."  You see, Trevor's dad loved like Jesus.  The neighborhood knew.  They all loved Pastor.  The ragamuffin in the street and the church lady with her well kept home, the businessman in the suit and the street vendor selling fruit.  Everyone loved Pastor.  Because he loved mightily.

I have never heard my husband yell.  Ever. We've been together over 20 years.  He is like his father and as gentle as they come.  My father in law would speak conviction and truth in to someone's life but always with a gentleness for their soul.  He was sweet and gentle with his grandbabies.  He was sweet and gentle with his wife and his children.  He was sweet and gentle with the thousands of children and their parents he introduced to Jesus across the countryside of Jamaica.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease on a 3 week visit here in 2003.  He wouldn't leave our home for 3 more years. It was beyond hard for him to leave his preaching, his church, his country, his community.  So difficult to lose his ability to drive, to remember to take his medications or to go on a walk by himself....to lose his independence.  It must have been a difficult adjustment to over night be living with his son, his wife and their two very small children.  But he did it all with grace. I am sure he wanted to lash out at his son for making these decisions he felt he should be making but he never did.  I am sure he wanted to tell me to take a hike when I wouldn't let him go for a walk by himself or reminded him again to take his medicine but he never did.  I bet there were times the chaos of two babies in a small home were overwhelming to him but he never uttered a complaint.  Not a single one.  He had self control.  As even keeled as they come.

He lived in our home for 3 years.  With me.  And our children.  He had patience.

We watched Alzheimer's take so much from him but nothing could take his faith.  I simply have never met anyone that loved Jesus more or trusted in His promises.  What great joy it gives me to know that he is seeing them fulfilled right now.  Daddy would sit and recite scripture long after he had forgotten our names.  It grew in his soul. I have never seen anyone read the word like he did.  He was a student of Jesus.  He embodied faithfulness.

And all of that.....all of that Jesus brought him peace.  In the last years of his life, the last months and days, he always had peace.  He was not fearful or angry.  He was at peace.  He had waited almost 84 years to be at the right hand of Jesus.  I have no doubt he is there.

As I sat to write about the legacy he's left us, it dawned on me that I was naming the fruits of the spirit.  Daddy walked in the spirit of Christ and he lived his life firmly rooted in them. What an honor it was to know and love him.  Galatians 5:22 "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control."

He was as good as they come.  Loving the great ones is easy.  Losing them is hard.

After 11 years of battling Alzheimers, tonight Daddy is whole again.  Reunited with Trevor's mom. I would always well up with tears thinking of how someday he would feel to be face to face with Jesus and last week it hit me that Jesus would get to meet Daddy face to face...Jesus would get to meet one of his greatest disciples...a true servant...such a celebration must be taking place.